Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead might be one of the most confusing pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen.
It’s centred around two minor characters in Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, whose existence is fleshed out by Stoppard with an existential crisis of sorts. We only see the parts of Hamlet they come into contact with from afar, the rest of the time they’re waiting in foolish confused contemplation or simply whiling away the time as a lonesome pair.
Stoppard’s dialogue is performed at rapid speed by Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire as the titular duo. They both perform the vast swathes of riddled and confusing dialogue with a meticulous energy but it’s McGuire who does slightly more in comedic terms with what he’s been given. Together they deliver a tour de force performance that underpins the whole production while the rest of the cast and the minimal set do well to isolate their confused existence. There’s no denying it’s a high-quality production.
That being said, I found Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s relentless back and forth highly tedious at times; even clever, riddled, silly comedy fails to draw a smile when you’re bombarded with it for a solid two hours. The dialogue constantly frustrates, never really getting anywhere. Other passages, such as the opening where the pair witness 92 consecutive head falling coin tosses and try to figure out what’s happening, just irked me to the core thanks the to the way the duo extensively ponder over things that make total logical sense. 92 consecutive head falling coin tosses do not need an explanation for 92 consecutive head falling coin tosses are just as mathematically likely as any other combination of 92 heads or tails. It means nothing goddammit!
Anyway, all I drew from this piece is the conclusion that we’re all going to die and that there’s not point wittering away your life constantly worrying about the random, out of our control, chance things that happen to us every day. I appreciated the quality of this production but didn’t enjoy it. Overall, I give the NT Live screening of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern a rating of 3/5.